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Trevor Penning has opportunity to get right on New Orleans Saints offensive line this season

'It's a totally clean slate. It's really a, 'Hey, we're starting over here. We're starting new.' '


The New Orleans Saints are hoping that a position switch can put Trevor Penningon the right side of his NFL playing career.

The 2022 first-round pick appeared in six games as a rookie, and started a game at left tackle, during a season in which his debut was delayed because of a toe injury suffered in training camp. And after suffering a Lisfranc injury in that game – the regular-season finale – he came back and started the first five games of his second season at left tackle – and played 100 percent of the offensive snaps in each – before ineffectiveness relegated him to a backup role for the final 12 games.

But the injury and ineffectiveness had the Saints looking at a restart for Penning in 2024, and the makeover began with a move from left tackle to right tackle, where Penning lined up Tuesday, the first day of OTAs for New Orleans.

While Penning looks to adjust to playing right tackle, 2024 first-round pick Taliese Fuaga, who exclusively played right tackle in college at Oregon State, flipped to left tackle in rookie minicamp and remained there with the offensive line starters Tuesday.

Uncertainty with both tackle positions arose as Andrus Peat, who finished the '23 season as the starter at left tackle, signed with the Raiders as an unrestricted free agent and Ryan Ramczyk, the starter at right tackle, has been slow to rebound from offseason knee surgery.

"You're going to see a few things throughout the course of training camp where we're going to try some different things," Coach Dennis Allen said. "I think that's kind of the direction that we're looking at right now, and really working Taliese over on the left side and giving Trevor an opportunity to work on the right side.

"We're still waiting to see where Ryan Ramczyk is – when we get probably to training camp will be the first time that we would even potentially see him. I think that's kind of the thought process.

"I think one of the reasons why you look at potentially putting (Penning) over on the right side is it's a totally clean slate. It's a different position, it's a different coaching staff, it's a different scheme and it's really a, 'Hey, we're starting over here. We're starting new.'

"I'm excited about it. It could be something good for him, and look, we haven't set anything in stone. We're going to evaluate how everything goes. Ultimately, our job is to put the best five out there come opening day."

The plan for Penning didn't alter when Fuaga was drafted because New Orleans believes Fuaga can play left tackle.

"Everything is very positive so far (with Penning)," offensive line coach John Benton said. "He's experienced some bad luck, (but) we're 18 days into it he has been at every practice, every training session. He's healthy, he feels good. I thought he looked good (Tuesday). I think all arrows are up on Trevor right now, and just keep that going.

"It all started before we knew we had Tali Fuaga. We just really felt like Trevor, from his experience and whatnot, needed a fresh start. I'm really of the belief that there's not that much difference between right and left tackle, and with Ramczyk probably being (an injury uncertainty), let's move Trevor over there.

"Tali has had experience at left tackle and definitely is the athlete to do it over there, so we decided to stay with it after the draft. It looks good so far, I think they've both responded well."

Benton said in his mind, there isn't a significant difference between left and right tackle because athleticism will be a significant trait for offensive linemen in the offense the Saints will install.

"You used to go through the season and the best pass rushers were always on our left; that's not true anymore," he said. "Defenses got smarter. It's maybe not 50-50, but close to it. We're a very ambidextrous offense from a run game standpoint.

"You used to put your big slobber-knocker at right tackle and your athletic guy at left tackle, but we're going to go both directions and be athletic. The characteristics we need for both tackles are essentially the same.

"Good offensive linemen are good offensive linemen. (If) two (are) equal, you'll go for the more athletic. You do run more (in this offense). It's less of the traditional get in there and grind it out and power steps.

"What we do is, we run off the ball and we try to beat defenders to spots on the field and stop pursuit, so we do a lot of things that are on the more athletic side of things as opposed to just finding out if we're just bigger and tougher, so to speak."

It's a new method of attack for Saints' offensive lineman, and the hope is that a new position for Penning will bring out the best in him.

New Orleans Saints players participated in the team's 2024 OTA practices on May 21, 2024 at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center.

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